My first book — Ancestral Recall: The Celtic Revival and Japanese Modernism (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016) — analyzes the geopolitical relationships between heritage, tradition, and translation in the formation of the modernist social order as construed by localized lore and cultural recovery.
I am donating all royalties earned from this book to Stonewall Cymru.
My first book Ancestral Recall: The Celtic Revival and Japanese Modernism was published last year (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016). By examining Celtic and Japanese modernism, I demonstrate that folklore cannot be understood solely in terms of individual nations but must be situated within a global nexus of movements, ideas, and influences. Ancestral Recall analyzes Celtic nationalism, regional dialects, and globalization in the twentieth century. Eager to insulate tradition from the homogenizing forces of globalization, yet profoundly aware that traditions cannot be divorced from living cultural practices—Celtic nationalism developed a new conception of heritage that can exist within the transnational contexts of modernity, one that is locally produced but internationally circulated. Irish and Japanese folklorists influenced each other through various ways in which heritage takes shape (voices, landscapes, ghosts, etc). My wonderful editor at McGill-Queen’s UP — Mr Mark Abley — is himself a prize-winning author with experience and expertise in minority languages activism.
In particular, Ancestral Recall (hc/pb/ebook) theorizes a sense of comparative modernity by detangling the interchanges of anthropological texts and nativist folklore in the modernist network of power, translation, and heritage. My interlingual studies pursue a transnational dynamic between two island geographies, Japan and Ireland.
I wrote most of Ancestral Recall while sponsored by a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship award (2012-2013). The Awards to Scholarly Publications Program funded the printing and publication costs with a grant. In evaluating the manuscript, an anonymous peer reviewer commented, “The author’s command of the Irish, English and Japanese languages and literatures is unprecedented in the comparative scholarship and criticism in these fields.” My book has been described with this pithy blurb: “A comparative modernist study of the connections between Irish and Japanese literature, opening up uncharted avenues of cross-cultural exchange.”
“Despite distance and differences in culture, the early twentieth century was a time of literary cross-pollination between Ireland and Japan. Notably, the Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats had a powerful influence on Japanese letters, at the same time that contemporary and classical Japanese literature and theatre impacted Yeats’s own literary experiments.
Citing an extraordinary range of Japanese and Irish texts, Aoife Hart argues that Japanese translations of Irish Gaelic folklore and their subsequent reception back in Ireland created collisions, erasures, and confusions in the interpretations of literary works. Assessing the crucial roles of translation and transnationalism in cross-cultural exchanges between the Celtic Revival and Japanese writers of the modern period, Hart proves that interlingual dialogue and folklore have the power to reconstruct a culture’s sense of heritage. Rejecting the notion that the Celtic Revival was inward and parochial, Hart suggests that, seeking to protect their heritage from the forces of globalization, the Irish adapted their understanding of heritage to one that exists within the transnational contexts of modernity – a heritage that is locally produced but internationally circulated. In doing so, Hart maintains that the cultural contact and translation between the East and West traveled in more than one direction: it was a dialogue presenting modernity’s struggles with cosmopolitanism, gender, ethnic identity, and transnationalism.
An inspired exploration of transpacific literary criticism, Yeats scholarship, and twentieth-century Japanese literature, Ancestral Recall tracks the interplay of complex ideas across languages and discourses.”
What others are saying …
“Ancestral Recall is a comparative study of two literatures with strong oral and folkloric traditions emerging under the impact of empire and modernization. But more than just a comparison of two regional literatures at opposite ends of the world-Irish and Japanese-Hart provides an altogether persuasive argument for a critique of nation, modernization theory, and essentialist notions of ‘East’ and ‘West.’ She is a brilliant and wonderfully articulate writer, gifted of many eloquent turns of phrase.”
Professor of Japanese Literature and Theatre (Department of Pacific and Asian Studies), University of Victoria
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“Ancestral Recall is fascinating – original, perceptive, and extremely well-researched.”
Professor and Chair (Department of English), SUNY Geneseo
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“While there is plentiful scholarship that characterizes Yeats’s forays into the forms of classical Noh as a sort of Orientalist mimicry, Hart expands the discussion by instead aligning Yeats with modernist Japanese playwrights who were reinventing the genre at the same time as he wrote Noh-inspired plays like At the Hawk’s Well. The dreamlike haunted landscapes of these plays invoke the concept of twilight, bringing together past events and present conditions in specific geographic locations to facilitate consideration of traumatic historical events and loss.
Hart refers to an astonishing number of texts in both English and Japanese, noting that previous work on the connection between Irish and Japanese literature rarely references texts in Japanese. Simply harmonizing so many sources is an achievement, but her handling of secondary sources, particularly those that contradict her, is impressive in its thoroughness and intellectual fairness.”
Mathilde Lind, Indiana University of Bloomington